Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Julie's Review: The Leftovers

Summary: What if—whoosh, right now, with no explanation—a number of us simply vanished? Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down? That’s what the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, who lost many of their neighbors, friends and lovers in the event known as the Sudden Departure, have to figure out. Because nothing has been the same since it happened—not marriages, not friendships, not even the relationships between parents and children. Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s new mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized community. Kevin’s own family has fallen apart in the wake of the disaster: his wife, Laurie, has left to join the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence; his son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a sketchy prophet named Holy Wayne. Only Kevin’s teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she’s definitely not the sweet “A” student she used to be. Kevin wants to help her, but he’s distracted by his growing relationship with Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family on October 14th and is still reeling from the tragedy, even as she struggles to move beyond it and make a new start. With heart, intelligence and a rare ability to illuminate the struggles inherent in ordinary lives, Tom Perrotta has written a startling, thought-provoking novel about love, connection and loss. ~stmartins.com

Review: I've only read one other Tom Perrotta book, The Abstinence Teacher and I enjoyed it. He really does get suburbia and the strife's of daily life. On the flip-side I've seen two movies based on his books and loved them; Election and Little Children. Both very thought provoking in different ways. In The Leftovers, he keeps up with this tradition of thought provoking novels by addressing a biblical event, The Rapture. It isn't so much "The Rapture" itself, but the people left to pick up the pieces of their lives and to try to make sense of the new world around them. We are quickly introduced to the Garvey family and how each of them is affected by the sudden disappearance of those in their lives. Jill is with her best friend when she leaves, Laurie is affected by her best friend losing her daughter, Tom is in college takes up with a cult and Kevin, seems to be the only one to take life by the horns and become Mayor of Mapleton.

If you are looking for an uplifting book about hope and love, you might want to steer clear of The Leftovers. I'm not saying that there aren't bright spots to the book, there are and I even found myself laughing a few times. What Mr. Perrotta writes very well is the human condition in extraordinary circumstances and makes them relevant to every day life.

How is Kevin supposed to handle it when is wife, Laurie, up and joins the Guilty Remnants? Is he supposed to act like she died and move on with his life? How hard is that when you do run into her but she can't speak? How is he supposed to relate to his teenage daughter who is dealing with her own emotions about her mother leaving and trying to figure out where she fits in the social aspect of high school?

Perhaps the most complex character is Nora. You see she lost her whole family during the "Sudden Departure" and is viewed in the town as a kind of martyr. How could you live in the same town where people don't know what to say to you or just don't say anything to you? How do you deal with the pent up rage you feel to those who have their families intact? How do you get back into life? For much of the book, we don't know a lot about Nora and her story is slowly revealed, until the end when you know what really is haunting her. As a mother, if you've never had the same thoughts that admits to, then either you have perfect kids/perfect marriage or you are lying to yourself. All mother's have been there and it passes.

I didn't find myself all that engaged in Tom's story because I felt that he used the "Sudden Departure" as an excuse to check out of his life and his commitments and to run free. At the end of the book, I didn't feel that he changed all that much either and was still a self-absorbed 20 something, who thought he was doing the right thing.

The only person that I feel that might be on the path to happiness or at least making the most out of the situation is Jill. Sure, she'll probably never really get over losing her mother but she'll deal with it and return to some semblance of normalcy. She goes through a lot during the course of the book and determines on her own what is important to her.

There were definitely a couple twists and turns that I didn't see coming and had to go back to re-read to ensure that I knew what had happened. I will say that the book ended a bit too abruptly for me. I wanted an epilogue or something...more. I'm not quite sure what to make of the ending. Is it a new beginning? Perhaps it is. Mr. Perrotta doesn't seem like a sequel kind of writer, so I will just have to make up the rest of the story for these characters in my head.

Final Take: 3.75/5



Fancy Terrible October 18, 2011 at 12:29 PM  

I read the Abstinence Teacher and hated it, but I did enjoy The Leftovers. The G.R. made me mad at times, but that just made them feel more realistic, y'know?

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